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International Thyroid Awareness Week 2018 begins on May 21st and continues through to May 27th.
The week-long event all over the world is great for raising awareness of thyroid conditions, both how it affects those of us with it, but also the signs and symptoms to get more people diagnosed sooner, instead of living poor quality of lives unnecessarily.
It’s important to know that although thyroid disease isn’t well recognised generally:
- The World Health Organization estimates that 750 million people in the world have some form of thyroid disease.
- Which includes 1 in 20 people in the UK, says the British Thyroid Foundation.
- and The ATA say that as many as 60% are undiagnosed.
So could this include you or a friend or family member?
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism Include:
- Sensitivity to cold/heat
- Weight gain, inability to lose weight
- Constipation/wind often
- Slow movements, speech and thoughts
- Itchy and/or sore scalp
- Muscle cramps, aches, pains and weakness
- Poor appetite
- Dry and tight feeling skin
- Brittle hair and nails
- Loss of libido
- Period issues
- Brain fog/confusion/memory problems
- Hoarse voice
- A puffy-looking face
- Thinned or partly missing eyebrows or eyelashes
- A slow heart rate or one that increases more so than a healthy person’s, after physical activity (e.g. after walking up the stairs or emptying the washing machine)
- Anaemia or other vitamin deficiencies
- Poor stamina
- The need to nap more than others
- Long recovery period after any activity
- Inability to exercise, or withstand certain exercises
- Diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Being overly emotional
- High or rising cholesterol
- Acid reflux
- Hair loss
- Easy bruising
- Swollen legs that impede walking
- Shin splints
- Difficulty standing on feet
- Joint stiffness and pain
- Fertility issues
And Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism Include:
- Increased sweating
- Oversentivity to heat
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Dry, thin skin
- Hair loss
- Change in sex drive
- Larger eyes
- Mood changes
- Dry or gritty eyes
- Double vision
- Weak, less define muscles
- Aches and pains
- Changes to menstrual cycle
- Infertility or problems conceiving
If you believe it could be possible that you have a thyroid issue, please make an appointment with your doctor and have them run a full thyroid panel. Your doctor may wish to just run the TSH test first, but it is important to know that this isn’t totally accurate on its own and the other components of the panel also need checking, especially if TSH comes back ‘normal’.
If your doctor won’t test you for a thyroid condition but you believe you may have one, or if they won’t run all the tests you need, you can explore ordering your own from online lab services. Medichecks is a popular place in the UK, where you can order the all important thyroid function test, Reverse T3 testing and thyroid antibodies to check for autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s).
Once on treatment, obtaining optimal levels instead of just being ‘in range’ is important, as well as checking thyroid antibodies to check if the condition is autoimmune. It is for around 90% of us and can affect your treatment to get you back to feeling well again. 
It is also important to note that having Hashimoto’s can cause results to move up and down as if you’re changing from hypo to hyper, or back and fourth between normal and abnormal. You could also be told you are ‘only borderline’ hypothyroid, and it is important to know what this entails for you.
If you’ve just been diagnosed, check out these common FAQ’s and answers.
For those of us already diagnosed, we can gain awareness this week about how to check our thyroid glands regularly for any abnormalities, what vitamins may help us and what tests we need to ensure our doctors are doing on us. We should also be aware of what results we are looking for.
For many thyroid patients, they are also still living with lingering symptoms, despite being on treatment for their condition (I’m mainly speaking to hypothyroidism patients here) so delving deeper in to why is something you can do this month. You can live a good quality life with hypothyroidism.
We can also share any resources we’ve found to be helpful, for example, I would suggest all hypothyroid patients to check out the organisations listed here.
There is also an online thyroid course which you can complete from your own home and computer. Freedom From Thyroid Fatigue helps you tackle low energy with a personalised approach.
Some helpful materials you can use to spread awareness:
Will you be joining us in spreading awareness?
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
The book Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate: When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired, which helps you to reclaim your thyroid healthy life.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes authoring books, writing articles, her email newsletters, blogging and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology and The WEGO Health Patient Leader Advisory Board. Rachel has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Yahoo, MSN, ThyroidChange and many more. She is well-recognised as a useful contributor to the thyroid community and has received multiple awards and recognitions for her work and dedication. She has authored two books: ‘Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate‘ and ‘You, Me and Hypothyroidism‘. Rachel is British, but advocates for thyroid patients on a global scale.